286 A DETERMINED CHURCHWOMAN chap.
make the road passable. Here I had a sight which, indeed, I never saw in any part of England before—namely, that going to a church at a country village, not far from Lewes, I saw an ancient lady, and a lady of very good quality, I assure you, drawn to church in her coach by six oxen; nor was it done in frolick or humour, but from sheer necessity, the way being so stiff and deep that no horses could go in it." The old lady was not singular in her method of attending service, for another writer records seeing Sir Herbert Springett, father of Sir William, drawn to church by eight oxen: a determination to get to his pew at any cost that led to the composition of the following ballad, which is now printed for the first time :—
THE RIDE TO CHURCH.
" A true sonne of the Church of England."
Epitaph on Sir Herbert Springett', in Ringmer Church. Let others sing the wild career Of Turpin, Gilpin, Paul Revere. A gentler pace is mine. But hear !
The raindrops fell, splash ! thud ! splash ! thud ! Till half the country-side was flood, And Ringmer was a waste of mud.
The sleepy Ouse had grown a sea, Where here and there a drowning tree Cast up its arms beseechingly ;
And cattle that in fairer days Beside its banks were wont to graze Now viewed the scene in mild amaze,
And, huddled on an island mound,
Sent forth so dolorous a sound
As made the sadness more profound.
And then—at last—one Sunday broke When villagers, delighted, woke To find the sun had flung its cloak